To the editor:
This weekend marks Memorial Day, honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Traditionally observed on the last weekend in May and originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many folks will still observe this weekend by visiting cemeteries or memorials.
Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season. Many more folks will celebrate by holding smaller, physically distanced family gatherings.
This Memorial Day I have two things on my mind.
First – with more 95,000 dead across the country in just a few months, this public health crisis already would rank as the fourth-most-deadly war our nation has faced. But those wars lasted years — Civil War, World War I, World War II — and the toll taken on our communities by COVID-19 is much quicker.
Second – in spite of this, our governor continues to rush to open the state by opening movie theaters, community pools, gyms and more. This week she even trotted out her director of the Department of Natural Resources to encourage Iowans to get out to our state parks, which have been overcrowded in recent weeks despite not being fully opened.
As you mark this Memorial Day weekend, please reflect on not just those who have served but also those who have been lost to COVID-19. Even if you have not personally lost someone to the novel coronavirus, pausing to remember the toll will keep us from normalizing mass preventable death. You can visit namingthelost.com to view a streamed memorial held this week.
Please stay safe, continue physically distancing, wearing masks and taking precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe.